The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has signed a cooperative agreement with the University of Virginia and its Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to provide pre-publication access to 68,000 historical papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington that have not yet been published in authoritative documentary editions.
- Online Access To The Founding Fathers Papers, "Press Release," The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (September 29, 2011).
David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, notes, "These documentary editions provide a treasure trove of information about the founding of our nation. The historical documents contain fascinating details about the thoughts, deeds, and lives of these seminal figures. This agreement ensures that we leverage the latest technology and processes to ensure that all Americans can access and use these papers."
- National Historical Publications and Records Commission
Looking for open data at the state, city, agency, or international level? The U.S. Data.gov site has a page of links:
It lists 29 states, 11 cities, 172 agencies and sub-agencies, and 21 countries with open data web sites.
New Performance.gov website faces performance problems of its own, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (08/26/2011).
A last-minute deal between the Obama administration and House Republicans to avert a government shutdown in April cut fiscal 2011 funding for online open government initiatives by more than three quarters to just $8 million.
[An] OMB official said Thursday the administration does not consider the current version of Performance.gov to be compliant with the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act...
...The current version of Performance.gov does have a search bar, but it is only minimally functional. Searches for the names of federal agencies, such as "defense," "agriculture" and "transportation" for instance did not turn up any results.
When the funding deal with lawmakers was reached, then-federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra told Congress he would cut two planned open government initiatives and suspend planned improvements to others, including Performance.gov.
New House Ethics Committee Report Search Tool, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (Aug. 4, 2011).
The House Ethics Committee is responsible for investigating and making recommendations on the enforcement of House ethics rules. In an nod towards transparency, its reports and statements are published online -- but they are virtually unusable. The Committee publishes documents in an unsearchable PDF format, spreads them out over of 24 pages, and gives them impenetrable titles like "Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member." Search engines (like Google) cannot see the documents, and only the most patient will click on each link to see what's inside.
We've taken all 120+ documents, made them searchable, and published them online in a database.
Sunlight reports that "Seven months ago, the order was given for the legal treatise, known as the Constitution Annotated (or CONAN), to be published online, but so far without result."
- O Conan! Where art thou? Legal treatise a no-show by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (June 21, 2011).
FGI joined ALA and 8 other organizations in signing a letter praising congressional and administration efforts to improve federal financial transparency.
- Ten Organizations Praise Federal Financial Transparency Efforts, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (June 21, 2011).
The organizations said the recently-introduced Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 (or DATA Act) would "revolutionize federal spending transparency," and also praised President Obama's June 13, 2011, Executive Order as an important transparency measure.
The DATA Act would establish a federal transparency board -- a successor to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board -- with the dual missions of expanding spending transparency to the entire government and identifying government-wide financial data standards...
The Executive Order immediately establishes a Government Accountability and Transparency Board that, over the next six months, will develop a plan to integrate government spending data.
OMB Watch has a good overview of what went on with the e-gov funding this year and how the budget will affect transparency and open government. The article says that H.R. 1473, which President Obama signed into law on April 15, provided only $8 million for the E-Gov Fund, a 76.5 percent cut.
- The Transparency-Killing Budget, OMB Watch (June 1, 2011)
The article ends on a hopeful note saying that the funding could be restored next year and there is bi-partisan support for the E-Gov Fund.
Given the current political climate, it is hard for me to be optimistic that there will be sufficient funding for government information production, dissemination, and preservation in the near future, much less for the long term. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which examines federal and state fiscal policies and programs that affect low and moderate income families and individuals, reports that the House Judiciary Committee began considering a constitutional balanced budget amendment that "would force Congress to enact the Republican Study Committee's (RSC) extreme budget plan or something similar to it." That plan would cut total funding for non-defense discretionary programs by approximately 70 percent in 2021.
- Balanced Budget Amendment Would Require More Extreme Cuts Than Ryan Plan, By Robert Greenstein, James R. Horney and Kelsey Merrick, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (June 6, 2011)
This is the part of the budget that includes veterans' medical care, most homeland security activities, border protection, and the FBI. It also includes education, environmental protection, protecting the nation's food and water supply, and medical research, as well as services for disadvantaged or abused children, frail elderly people, and people with severe disabilities.
Even if this amendment doesn't become law and even if the specific RSC budget doesn't pass, it is hard to imagine, when such huge cuts are being seriously considered, that there will be adequate support in Congress for Data.gov, GPO, FDsys, American Factfinder, and other government information projects. Even if budgets are adequate to fund minimal dissemination of "current" information on government web sites, it is hard to imagine there will be adequate funding to keep online -- or even preserve offline -- older "non-current" digital information (e.g., last year's annual reports, non-current census information, "out of date" economic data).
It is much easier to imagine that libraries that rely on pointing to government web sites for government information may find themselves pointing to empty pages.
When Congress is willing to cut medical care for veterans, homeland security, services for abused children, and protection of our water supply, much less government openness initiatives for even current information, it is hard to imagine that it will be willing to fund digital preservation of government information.
Who will decide what is discarded and what is kept? Who will decide what is worth preserving and what is not? If digital government information were deposited in FDLP libraries, every FDLP library would at least have the opportunity to make its own decisions on what is worth preserving for its own community. If digital government information were deposited in FDLP libraries, FDLP libraries could work together and collaborate on solutions to preserve digital information for the future. But if FDLP libraries do not demand digital deposit, there may be no files left to preserve.
The National Academies Press announced that all PDF versions of books it publishes will be available for free download. This includes both its current catalog of more than 4,000 books as well as all future reports. Printed books will continue to be available for purchase through the NAP website and traditional channels.
Browse the NAP catalog at http://www.nap.edu/
NAP is publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. Known collectively as the National Academies, they are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world, including many government issues. The National Academy of Sciences was formed by a congressional charter signed by President Lincoln signed in 1863. Many of their activities are mandated and funded by Congress and federal agencies.
OMB to cut two transparency programs, suspend others, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (05/24/2011).
Two transparency initiatives and numerous improvements to open government programs will be scrapped as a result of a 75 percent funding cut lawmakers agreed to in April to avert a federal shutdown, officials said Tuesday.
...The government's most visible and popular transparency initiatives will stay in operation, such as USAspending.gov, which tracks government spending on contracts, and the IT Dashboard, which details spending on information technology projects. But planned improvements will be put on hold, according to Kundra's letter.
Kundra on e-gov cuts: no project unaffected, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (May 24, 2011).
Data quality may suffer....New data will be harder to come by.